Blog Tags: Ocean Acidification
Ocean News: BP Wants Money Back for Overpayments, Obama Has a Big Opportunity to Protect Whales, and More
- Scientists are predicting a slighter larger than average “dead zone” for the Chesapeake Bay this summer, meaning that nearly 2 cubic miles of the Bay will lack the needed dissolved oxygen for fish and crabs. The Gulf of Mexico, on the other hand, is predicted to have average-sized dead zone, caused by excessive nutrient pollution from wastewater and agriculture. The Baltimore Sun
Ocean News: Obama Makes Big Moves for Tackling Seafood Fraud and Protecting Marine Habitat, and More
- In a video announcement released at the Our Ocean conference today, President Obama announced that he will expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. This Monument contains some of the most pristine tropical ecosystems in the world, but is vulnerable to ocean acidification and climate change. The Associated Press
We all know that climate change poses a huge threat to the oceans, including rising sea levels and coral reef bleaching, but you may be wondering how that trickles down to your dinner plate. The overarching theme of the recent 1,552-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) found that climate change is undeniable, mostly caused by human activities, and is occurring globally.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been busy building momentum to protect the oceans for generations to come. Next week, the U.S. Department of State will host the first “Our Ocean” conference, an event where prominent scientists, world leaders, and conservationists will converge to tackle some of the biggest threats facing the oceans today. The invitation-only conference will be held on Monday, June 16 and Tuesday, June 17 in Washington D.C.
- Last week, Israel’s Protection of the Coastal Environment approved its first deep-sea maritime reserve off the coast of the northern village Rosh Hanikra — the first of its kind for Israel. Haaretz
A new study published Sunday in Nature Climate Change finds that ocean acidification could cause the Southern Ocean Antarctic krill population to crash by 2300, meaning dire consequences for whales, seals, penguins, and the entire ecosystem it supports. In addition to devastating ecosystem effects, a collapse in krill populations could have serious economic implications, as the species represents the region’s largest fishery resource.
For the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide at the historic Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This is the same location where Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher Charles David Keeling first established the “Keeling Curve,” a famous graph showing that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing rapidly in the atmosphere. CO2 was around 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution, when humans first began releasing large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. On May 9, the reading was a startling 400.08 ppm for a 24-hour period. But without the help of the oceans, this number would already be much higher.
This month, in the midst of the 18th UN Climate Change Conference (COP-18) in Qatar, the World Bank released a report titled “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided.” The report, already causing a buzz in the global community, paints a grim picture of what the world might look like if global temperatures reach 4°C above preindustrial levels.
The report states that without intensive mitigation and global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, we will reach the 4° threshold by the end of the century, leading to the inundation of low-lying and island communities, extreme weather including drought and flooding, severe losses to biodiversity, and global instability due to displacement and famine.
But the report also details the dangers of ocean acidification, often referred to as climate change’s (equally evil) twin. Carbon dioxide emissions, the root cause of both climate change and ocean acidification, fundamentally change the chemistry of the ocean. Increased carbon dioxide uptake by the ocean increases the acidity of seawater, which threatens corals, plankton, oysters, cuttlefish, and other marine organisms that build shells. Ocean acidification is dangerous for many marine species and it is happening right now.
In the projected “4°C world,” the oceans will be 150 percent more acidic than preindustrial levels. This type of rapid, anthropogenic change in ocean chemistry is likely unparalleled in Earth’s history and could eliminate entire ecosystems, including coral reefs. If CO2 levels reach 450 ppm (corresponding to a global warming of about 1.4°C), coral growth could stop altogether.
The loss of coral reefs would be catastrophic for the ocean and the millions of people who depend on reefs for food, income, and protection against coastal floods and rising sea levels. The bottom line: marine life and those that depend on the ocean for their livelihoods will suffer as global temperatures rise.
In the foreword, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim writes, “A 4°C world can, and must, be avoided.” Oceana is working hard to make sure solutions like shifting from dirty energy to clean, offshore wind power and regulating carbon dioxide emissions are part of the international movement to prevent ocean acidification from further impacting our oceans.
Want to be a part of the movement? Click here to learn what you can do!
Caroline Wood is the Clean Ocean Energy Intern on Oceana's Climate and Energy Campaign
While the retreat from rising seas may seem like a distant, if abysmal, end-of-the-century scenario, it is in fact already taking place in some low-lying island communities. For the Guna (pronounced “Kuna”) people of Panama the abandonment of their ancestral homeland, the San Blas Islands, has become the only option after frequent floods have made their way of life impossible.
While the flooding of the San Blas Islands is partly a consequence of rising sea levels, the Guna are not entirely blameless. Coral reefs that once surrounded and buffered the islands from storm surges and flooding have been destroyed after decades of exploitation (ironically, the Guna mined the reefs to build up the islands). It has been enough, according to Reuters “to submerge the Caribbean islands for days on end”.
Above is a good primer on ocean acidification narrated by Dan Laffoley of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The video spans the vulnerable corals of Australia's Great Barrier Reef to the equally vulnerable shellfish industry of the Pacific Northwest, detailing the potential effects of a more acidic ocean.
To those unfamiliar with global warming's "evil twin", the video does a good job of explaining the basics of ocean acidification: simply put, carbon dioxide reacts with ocean water to make carbonic acid. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of civilization's carbon dioxide emissions, and as a result they are now 30 percent more acidic than before the industrial revolution. What does this mean for animals like clams, corals, or oysters that rely on a more stable pH range to build their calcium carbonate skeletons and shells?
Mother nature has provided some of her own experiments, as documented in the video. Near Vesuvius in the Mediterranean carbon dioxide bubbles up from below, rendering a glimpse in to a future, more acidic, and bleaker ocean. Closer to the vents, where the water is more saturated with carbon dioxide, the communities of life become less diverse and invasive algaes thrive.
Off of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is already struggling in the new man-made environment. As more and more acidic water continues to erode the corals in the coming decades, these ecosystems of otherworldly beauty and diversity could simply go extinct.
Perhaps most worrisome of all is the effect of acidification on pteropods, a shell forming plankton at the very bottom of the ocean's food web, nicknamed the "potato chips of the sea". These animals are especially vulnerable to acidification, and as the narrator ominously intones: "If their shells dissolve a critical part of the food web dissolves with them".
Learn more about ocean acidification and what you can do to help.
- Ocean Roundup: Chevron Withdraws Drilling Plans from the Arctic, Peru Issues Ban on Shrimp Fishing, and More Posted Fri, December 19, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Humpback Whales Communicate to Feed at Night, Bangladesh Oil Spill Threatening Sundarbans Mangroves, and More Posted Wed, December 17, 2014
- Holiday Creature Feature: Christmas Tree Worm and Candy Cane Shrimp Posted Fri, December 19, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Filefish Use Chemical Scent to Camouflage, Bangladesh Oil Spill Threatening Endangered Dolphins, and More Posted Mon, December 15, 2014
- Act: GrubHub, Take Shark Fin Off the Menu! Posted Wed, December 17, 2014